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Gateway officials still trimming budget

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

Even after administrators factor in a proposed tax increase of 2 percent for the 2013-14 school year, Gateway officials still are trying to reduce a $500,000 budget shortfall.

The preliminary budget presented at a finance committee meeting Tuesday night showed total projected revenues of $67.4 million and total projected expenditures of $67.9 million. When officials first started discussing the budget, they estimated the deficit at $3.4 million.

The tax increase would cost an extra $38 per year for a resident with the average Monroeville property assessment of $108,000. For a person with the average assessment in Pitcairn — which is $35,200 — it would amount to an extra $12.50 per year. The district cannot increase millage rates next school year by more than 2 percent because of state law that limits the size of school tax hikes.

The tax increase would generate about $876,000 next school year. However, that's not enough to balance the budget.

Gateway Business Director Paul Schott said administrators will continue to review potential revenue generators such as advertising deals with vendors and rental fees for district facilities, in addition to potential expenditure reductions such as personnel changes and the leasing or financing of technology.

In addition to the proposed tax increase, the preliminary budget on Tuesday showed about a $600,000 reduction of the reserve fund over the next year, which would bring the fund balance to about $8.1 million.

The projected end balance of the reserve would be about 12 percent of the total budget.

“It's still a very healthy fund balance,” Schott said. “The recommended fund balance is anywhere between 5 and 15 percent for school districts.”

Employee salaries and benefits are projected to represent nearly 70 percent of expenditures next school year. Representatives from the teachers' union have been meeting with administrators to negotiate a new contract. The current deal ends Aug. 25.

Health care and retirement costs for teachers are projected to increase next school year, though Personnel Director Bob Reger noted that retirement costs are out of the district's hands.

“Neither the Gateway School District, the administration nor the board have any control over the retirement system,” Reger said. “It is a state-mandated account and system. We are told what the employees are to be charged and, more importantly, what the employer contributions are going to be.”

The deadline to pass the 2013-14 budget and millage rate is June 26. The school board is scheduled to settle on a preliminary budget — which can be changed before final adoption — at the May 20 board meeting.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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